On Traveling Alone

Taking an international solo trip had been something on my to-do list for a long time. As recently as 2019 I’d seriously begun toying with the idea of booking airfare with no one else and taking charge of my own itinerary. That original notion ended after I promised my parents I’d try to ask people to join me, which culminated in a European trip with a friend from work. While that trip placated my wanderlust for the moment, I never stopped thinking about what it would be like to roam alone.

Out on the town having the time of my life with a bunch of friends. They're all just out of frame, laughing too.
Look at how much fun I’m having with my friends, who are just out of view

My solo travel fuse was initially lit by a conversation I had with a coworker during my time as an intern at the Game Show Network. That summer, I discovered a since-nerfed website called ScoreBig.com, which at the time allowed users to name their price for sports tickets. Since the internship only provided free snacks as compensation, I didn’t have much money to spend, but since I was already in the city for work it was the most convenient time I’d ever had to see games. Every few days I’d check ScoreBig to see how low of a price I could get tickets for (usually anywhere from $2-$5). One day, while I was lamenting that I wasn’t able to find anyone to accompany me to Citi Field, I was overheard by someone else on the ad sales team. Citing his time as a basketball player abroad in France, he told me that sometimes doing things by oneself can be even more rewarding than doing it with others, and certainly better than not doing it at all. He gave a few examples of the adventures he went on while living in France, and while I never got around to going to a game solo that season, I would eventually make it to Flushing by myself for the first time in 2016, and almost every season after that. Since then I’ve done other activities I had treated as taboo for a single person, such as going to a movie theater or eating at a restaurant by myself.


Going to see the Mets play is a far cry from getting on a plane to embark on a far-away solo adventure. Before 2022, not counting my journey to London to study abroad (which was more of an immersion than a tourist experience), I’d stuck to small-scale solo trips. The most ambitious trip I went on was to California in 2017, though the goal of that trip was to see and hang out with various Californians (since it rained in the state for the first time in 5 years during my trip, half of those I went to see had fallen ill). During my time living in NYC during COVID I took many long day trips to explore the city, but those always ended back at my home-base apartment. All of these escapades were simply practice for the trip I’d finally convince myself to book for to span from Christmas 2022 to well into January of the new year.

Having only traveled internationally in groups before, it quickly became apparent what differences awaited me. Not all the differences were bad, but some did take a little while to acclimate to as I roamed cobblestone streets to parts both known and unknown. 


  • Starting and ending the day when I want to
    • When exploring new places, I prefer to “carpe the diem.” As soon as I wake up I’m ready to roll out of bed and start the day’s agenda. Time spent idly in bed is time that could be spent discovering someplace new. Traveling to different time zones provides the unique opportunity to manually reset one’s internal clock to wake up at the most desirable time. When traveling in groups previously I’ve had to wait for my companions to wake up before starting out from the hotel. On my own, I was often able to embark at the crack of dawn (easy to do in Europe in winter). When I crashed around 10:30 PM, no one was there to try to drag me out to a bar to drink until well after midnight. I was the master of my days and nights.
  • Easier to blend in as a local
    • As a New Yorker, one of the things I hate to look like is a tourist. Wherever I travel I try to make it look like I know where I’m going at all times. For example, on a high school trip to France, I got lost looking for souvenirs for my family and chose to just keep walking in random directions in lieu of asking for directions. Before I could think to try to use the phone card we were given to use at pay phones in an emergency, I found my way back to a familiar point and returned in time without raising any alarms. I may have wasted time getting lost, but I retained my dignity as a New Yorker. These days a smartphone with GPS helps alleviate those risks, but there are other ways traveling in a group can out oneself as a tourist. Without anyone to talk to, my New York accent couldn’t give me away as a foreigner. While there were several missed opportunities to take photos of myself in front of famous monuments, posing for pics is a surefire way to let others know you’re not from around those parts (though I’m satisfied with the selfies I did take). My greatest accomplishment of the last trip was, even when walking through tourist traps, not being accosted to buy tickets for Hop-on Hop-off bus tours.
  • No one to stop me from doing whatever I want to do, even the stupid things
    • I often do things not because I should, but because I can. Did all of the cities I visited have robust transit systems? Yes. Did I need to average walking 17 miles/day on my quest for unconventional souvenirs? Absolutely not. Did I do it anyway? Heck yeah.


  • It’s lonely
    • Having abandoned roommates several years ago for that one-bedroom life, I’ve grown accustomed to passing time on my own; however, being alone with my thoughts for two weeks straight is not necessarily ideal. I missed having fellow countrymen to share observations with and split tasty meals. Not being able to share food was especially saddening, since sometimes I had to buy food in greater quantity than I’d like, or there were times I was forced to only choose one thing from a menu of countless appealing options. To replicate in-person interactions with friends, I subjected all of my Instagram followers to an endless stream of travel photography and witty commentary via my Story.
  • Assembling a full itinerary for a 2-week trip is tough
    • Sure, I was able to go everywhere I wanted to, but there were a few times during the trip when there were lapses in the itinerary. In the months leading up to the trip I filled in sections of the itinerary here and there, but my research certainly wasn’t exhaustive. I ended up spending time in a way I found meaningful, and there were moments I truly appreciated the built-in time to rest, be flexible, or do other spontaneous activities, but there would likely be fewer question marks if I had a companion there to give their input. After each day’s activities I would open up my laptop and revise my itinerary in Google Sheets to reflect what I did that day, but that only gives the illusion in hindsight that I had a complete and total understanding of what I was doing at all times. Even if everything had been planned to a T, I doubt I or any potential travel partner could have anticipated how many shops, restaurants, and other attractions were closed around the holidays, which meant that even with the best planning we would have been scrambling regardless. While I’m an excellent planner, it’s sometimes easier and more fun to scramble together.
All in a day’s work
  • No one to stop me from doing whatever I want to do, even the stupid things
    • I often do things not because I should, but because I can. Did all of the cities I visited have robust transit systems? Yes. Did I need to average walking 17 miles/day on my quest for unconventional souvenirs? Absolutely not. Did I do it anyway? Heck yeah.

I’m proud of myself for embarking on such a long solo trip. Throughout the journey I embraced adventure wherever it led me, which was often to places I’d never seen and to food I’d never eaten. I would like to travel solo again in the future, though I may try to recruit like-minded travelers for my next voyage. As successful an experiment as this was, it’s been too long since I’ve broken bread with friends abroad.

Also, hotels are mad expensive.

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